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Study of a Genre: Children's Literature

ENGL 103.900
instructor(s):

Instruction and Delight: Children’s Literature, 1744-present
Philip Pullman has claimed that “'Thou shalt not' is soon forgotten,
but 'Once upon a time' lasts forever.”  And yet this hasn’t always
been believed.  Over the last three centuries, literature for children
has shifted from the strictly didactic to the delightful, evolving as
society’s definitions of childhood evolve.  This class will examine
children’s literature from the eighteenth century to today, from how
Enlightenment philosophers helped create the genre to how changing
ideas of childhood have influenced literature aimed at young readers.
We will explore works by John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mary
Wollstonecraft, William Blake, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Lewis Carroll,
Christina Rossetti, Rudyard Kipling, J.M Barrie, Francesca Lia Block,
and Philip Pullman, as well as read examples from popular culture –
including films, cartoons, comic books, and advertisements – that
contribute to our modern understanding of the child reader and
consumer.  We will also take advantage of some of the exceptional
opportunities Philadelphia offers by conducting archival research at
Penn’s rare book collection, the Rosenbach Museum, and the Free
Library.  Requirements include spirited and curious class
participation, several short written assignments, an in-class
presentation on a topic of your choice, and a final essay.